Brainstorm: NetFlix for books

December 23rd, 2005

I received some books in the mail today from Intel on IA-32 Assembly language development and the sheer weight of these books reminded me that I was likely to never actually read them, let alone leaf through them when I actually needed some reference. I tend to just go to Google and search for the topic before I ever pick up a book anymore. In spite of the ease of reading stuff on the web, it is still less satisfying and intuitive (and in many ways, less informative) than actually reading the book. I like Google Print, but that is a teaser without a carrot at the end of the stick.

I know that there are eBooks and there are a variety of other electronic publication services, but could one of the big poobahs (Amazon, Google, Microsoft etc.) come up with a searchable online library of books that could be “checked out” on a time sensitive basis. The service could be charged per book, per epoch or otherwise. I sure would get a subscription! In this age of the iTunes, RIAA and legal music downloads, I am surprised that there is such lack of interest in monetizing the online library.

The existing services are poor and fragmented at best and they leave a bitter taste with their high prices. Not only that, buying an eBook is a little like shopping for gifts on the 23rd of December; you have to visit twenty different stores, stand in line for hours and face the wrath of bad drivers (have you noticed that everyone but me is a bad driver?) in the parking lot. No one location/site has a good selection of stuff I want.

While they are at it, could they also come up with a better format for publishing books online?




  1. Titanas (1 comments.) says:

    Imagine leaving in Greece where shipping from amazon takes a week minimum and only 16% of the population is online. Damn :-(

  2. WE (1 comments.) says:

    There is, which is quite similar to what you describe. My public library is affiliated, so I have to pay nothing. It allows you to check out books for a time period online, although the selection isn’t complete (it usually doesn’t include books the library has in print, for example).

  3. Daniel Smith (1 comments.) says:

    Safari Online is a great service. I have a 30 slot subscription. It’s all searchable. Once you grab a book (most are one slot), you hang on to it for a minimum of 45 days until you can “remove” it. Check it out!

  4. Teli (24 comments.) says:

    Netflix for books already exists, sort of – I’ve never used their service (though I should probably start), but I’ve heard good feedback about them and they have books, including audio and MP3 books, on a variety of subjects.

  5. Nat (6 comments.) says:

    Wow, this is so weird. My mom and I were sitting at the dinner table discussing this very thing last night. Then i log onto the net, and here someone else is talking about it. Netbrary, its the next big thing i tell you.

  6. Les (4 comments.) says:

    You mean something like only more so?

  7. Dylan Kinnett (2 comments.) says:

    While we’re on the subject, I wish it were much easier to store and read .txt books on an iPod.

  8. George Burke (1 comments.) says:

    Just to show you that a Netflix for books style business model exists with BookSwim – They allow members to rent hardcover books and paperback books from a pretty big selection. Books are delivered free then when finished reading, you can send them back… again free.

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